Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Little Memorial to a Big Man

Americans aren't known for being understated thus it is all the more remarkable that one of our nation's greatest presidents (and truly one of the great leaders in global history), Franklin D. Roosevelt asked that any monument to him be no larger than his desk.  Specifically in September 1941, he instructed Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter:

If any memorial is erected to me, I know exactly what I should like it to be. I should like it consist of a block about the size of this (putting his hand on his desk) and placed in the center of that green plot in front of the Archives building.  I don't care what it is made of, whether limestone or granite or whatnot, but I want it plain without any ornamentation, with the simple carving, "in memory of ___________."

FDR's friends and relatives made good on his wishes some 20 years after his death.   But the American people couldn't leave well enough alone, particularly as the National Mall began to fill up with other symbols and places to commemorate both ordinary Americans and national leaders.  The FDR Memorial, dedicated in 1997, now occupies some 7.5 acres of West Potomac Park, just off the Tidal Basin, and perhaps a bit of a hike for the average tourist.  While I like the new version (and hope to blog more about it at some point), happily the original memorial remains in place by the Archives just as FDR imagined.

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